Passion: Jesus Eats with Everyone
Rachel Billups | Luke 22: 7-23
The word “Passion” has a lot of nuances and is defined as a strong and barely controllable emotion. Passion can take us to new heights of euphoric feeling and to great depths of commitment.
So, what are your passions?
What matters to you in your life so much as to evoke an energy from within?
What is it that gives you purpose?
I had a passion once. I started college as a Religious Studies major, but also an Art major.
I loved art!
About a month ago, I found an old sketch pad from a color theory class. What I discovered written in the margin felt too full circle to not share…
September 1,1999. Passion. This is all I can think about. What are my passions? Plural; do I have more than one? Is life worth living without passion? If I don’t have passion, why live? What are my passions? This world is abundant with ideas, thoughts, and objects to have passion for. Contentment. Why can’t I be satisfied? I am always looking for improvement. Is this a God instilled quality? It seems that I’m the type of person who is never satisfied with what I have…”
18-year-old Rachel goes on to have an existential crisis about passion and whether or not to drop the class.
Well fast forward, I dropped the class….and shelved my passion thinking a college major is what names a passion, but what I didn’t understand about passion is that left to our own devices there is a layer to passion we are never going to choose: the layer of suffering.
During the season of Lent, we lean into the suffering of Jesus, and through it we seek clarity and strength for our own lives.
How might our suffering be a bridge to greater meaning?
EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON…right?
In Luke chapter 22, Jesus was readying himself and his disciples for events of the next few days, which would ultimately shape the whole of human history. And where does Jesus begin his instruction? Around the table.
“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this” (Luke 22: 7-23 NIV).
Jesus was giving his disciples the big picture. For these first century Jews, hospitality was an integral part of their identity. How and who you ate with mattered. There were dietary laws that prohibited certain foods with certain people. (Leviticus 11: 2-4, 47)
Because other cultures didn’t have the same rules, it was just easier to exclude everyone from the table–Folk who don’t eat what we eat, believe what we believe, live how we live.
Now you and I know that our dining habits form our relationships. Our relationships inform how we function in our communities and how we function in our communities infuses our faith. It’s all connected with what and with whom we eat.
In her book Bridges Out Of Poverty, Ruby Payne teaches about hidden rules and social constructs concerning food. Those experiencing material poverty focus on the quantity of food, the key question being, is there enough? The middle class, quality – did you like the food, what I baked for you? And for the wealthy, food is all about presentation – was the food plated well?
Our very understanding of food and how we relate to food becomes an indicator of how we are able or unable to be in relationship with each other.
Over and over again the most unlikely of characters are invited over for dinner.
“Jesus didn’t care about a “holy table” as the religious establishment defined “holy.” For Jesus a holy table was one that was open to anyone, a table where all God’s children were present.” Leonard Sweet, From Tablet to Table
Jesus likes to eat and likes to eat with everyone.
It’s a problem. It breaks the rules. It turns people’s understanding of who they are inside out and upside down.
We want protocols, dividing lines, restrictions, insiders, and outsiders. And Jesus keeps adding leaves to the table. Of course, that is most meaningful to those who were formerly excluded.
I’m real sensitive to being excluded. Once upon a time my best friend from high school, my sister and I were at my grandma’s house. Suddenly a bunch of our family showed up with a birthday cake. They were literally hosting a birthday party for my grandma, but we were not invited. My sister begged to stay, and we left her there, but when I came home to tell my dad he got in his truck and went to get her. I could feel the pain when he picked up his keys, we were uninvited.
At the last supper, Jesus didn’t limit his guest list to the 12 disciples—so the picture in our mind is less about scripture and more about Leonardo Da Vinci.
Sure, they are there – the tax collector, the fishermen, the zealot, men who were very, very different from one another. But the truth is, there were also the women and men who traveled with Jesus there in that room. The room could have been really crowded! And in this single meal Jesus widened the table for the whole would.
The Passover celebration represents a defining moment for the Jews. It was a reenactment of the deliverance story, when God delivered God’s people out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery.
The first course of the meal was a word of dedication and the first glass of wine. The second glass was consumed during the Haggadah or the telling of the Exodus story. The main meal was the consumption of lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread, fruit puree and (another cup of) wine, during which a blessing was prayed. Praise over a fourth cup ended in celebrating God’s Passover, which you can read about in the book of Exodus.
Jesus took that beautiful, sacred yet common practice and expanded its meaning.
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22: 19-20 NIV).
Jesus was doing something new! He was becoming the sacrifice—his body and his blood shed for the sins of the entire world. Once and for all, Jesus’ sacrifice would extend the edges of God’s table to include insiders and outsiders alike.
Jesus eats with everyone.
“So….in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29 NIV).
The table just got bigger. Jesus sets a new standard of what it means to be the collective kingdom of God.
SO, PULL UP A CHAIR
Luke 22 begins with a meal and Luke 24, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, finishes with another meal.
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24: 30-32 NIV).
As we gather around tables, we will see Jesus in the faces of those we invite to dine with us. As we are faithful to open our hearts around coffee tables, café tables and kitchen tables we are going to experience more than the flesh and blood of one another. We are going to see and hear and sense the very presence of God.
Where two or more are gathered, there I’ll be in the midst of them.
So, pull up a chair in your home, pull up a chair in this church, pull up a chair at your workplace and invite everyone to join you. No one is excluded from Jesus’ table. The question is, who do you know that needs an invitation?
Lord Jesus give us the courage to pull up an extra chair.
“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.” Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday
Senior Pastor | Ginghamsburg Church